The most crucial component of any small organization is teamwork. Working together as a team makes sure that the vision of the organization is not lost. However, teamwork is especially important in ensuring the success of a small nonprofit organization. A lack of teamwork can lead to disorganization and dissolution of a nonprofit organization. This seems like general and obvious advice, but in reality effective teamwork can be quite tricky. Below, I have detailed three points that can help you build a better team and be a better team member.
1) Keep an open mind and be respectful to all opinions, thoughts, and ideas. A team will never succeed if its members are not open to other people’s ideas, thoughts, and ideas. One has to realize that everyone comes from a unique backgrounds, has different experiences, and has their strengths. Therefore, it is important that everyone on the team respects different ideas and takes them into account. The insight you gain from listening to others is important because it can lead to new solutions as well as a newfound understanding about a particular topic.
2) Align yourself with the organization’s vision. Make sure you are dedicated to fulfilling the mission of your organization. Straying from it severely hinders progress and development within the organization. This also applies to meetings. When you meet as a team, go over what you would like to accomplish during that meeting how you will be collectively approaching the organization’s philosophy. If at any point an individual strays from the goals for that meeting or an unnecessary tangent is entertained, the chairman or chairwoman needs to bring the main conversation back. In the case that the whole team agrees that the established vision is outdated, it is advisable for the team to regroup and draw up a new vision that they can collectively agree on. This helps improve the organization and keep it up to date.
3) Act, reflect, act, reflect... The team is a reflection of the nonprofit itself, and therefore, needs to be constantly reflecting upon itself. Arguably, reflection is the most important tool for having great teamwork. One suggestion that works particularly well for our nonprofit organization is having the team members meet once every two weeks and reflect on the strengthens of the team and the challenges of the team. In addition, we reflect on the projects we undertake and see where we could improve the next time. The point of these sessions is to focus on the team and not on individual members. This prevents people from pointing fingers when things go wrong and to get our members into the mindset that what we do is bigger than a single person. The successes we have can be attributed to the work many and these successes go on to help many people in the community. Likewise, the failures we have are taken as a team and we focus on how we can avoid the same mistakes the next time instead of putting one individual on the spot and blaming them.
4) Finally, always ask each other questions. One question we like to ask in our board meetings is, “How can we improve communication?” As a remote team we often face barriers in communicating, so we ask about the various communication channels we use and how effective they are in getting our ideas across. Other questions include: “Does our meeting place affect our productivity? Are the tasks the team has undertaken in their field of expertise? Is there some administrative steps that can be eliminated to free up more of the team’s time?”
All of the things suggested above are gateways to opening dialogue within a team. It is important for a team to think about what is best for the organization and to work together to maintain a strong team dynamic.
For more tips on how to build an effective team, I highly recommended the following resources:
M.S. Health Policy Candidate ‘17
Editor's note: Rima Patel is a lead visionary at Heart to Soul in Action. She is also a student at the University of the Sciences and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Health Policy. Here, she outlines some of the ways individuals can engage in nonprofit work.
Why am I volunteering for this nonprofit organization?
One of the most rudimentary questions I have come across in my time leading this nonprofit organization, is "Why Heart to Soul in Action (HSA) when there are so many other organizations?" I find this question intriguing because it is difficult to quantify or even qualify, the "why" to someone else. In elementary terms, HSA addresses two of the biggest societal issues, at least in my eyes, of education and healthcare. Additionally, I am able to combine education and healthcare together for many of the projects that I envision for the organization. Being a part of HSA allows me to have creative authority and to work towards a mission that aligns with my values of service, community, engagement, empathy, and acceptance.
There are many non-profit organizations across the United States and while I would love for every one of you reading this post to be a part of Heart to Soul in Action organization, we all have different causes we are passionate about. Below I have outlined how to find a nonprofit organization that best fits you.
List causes that you are passionate about and that are meaningful to you on a piece of paper. Do not focus on the scope; focus on your emotions.
What are you really passionate about? What do you want to see changed in society?
After you select your causes, then draw up a list of values that are important to you. Once you make both lists narrow your search to a few causes.
Focus on what your values are and make another list. If you are passionate about more than one cause and the causes have an underlying similarity, try to choose a multifaceted organization that has many different on-going service projects. If your causes are vastly different from one another, do not be afraid to get involved in more than one organization . I personally, do not recommend joining more than two organizations because it severely limits your capacity to be able to make a lasting impact and dedicate adequate time to all of them.
Select the organization(s) that you wish to take part in. Instead of looking at the size or the caliber of an organization, look for one that most closely matches your passions.
Often times, there is a huge spotlight on helping out a well-established nonprofit organization and while this may suit some people, I find the vast majority of people are much more suited to working with a local affiliate of a national organization or with a community based non- profit. I encourage everyone to try to learn about potential organizations and find projects where they get to be the most involved and are most comfortable working with. This serves a dual purpose as it helps you make a sizable impact and prevents the organization from having a disinterested or disconnected member.
If you are unable to find an organization that matches your passions, you have two choices. 1) start your own project and propose your idea to a non-profit organization that works in the field in which your project falls under or 2) start your own non-profit organization.
Option 1 allows you to have immediate access to the organizations existing infrastructure, intellectual property, and member base. HSA excels here. We believe in not only benefiting the community, but also helping students grow and are always open to your project ideas if you choose to become a member. If you do not want to work under the constraints of another organization than you have the option of creating your own non-profit organization, which will allow you autonomy but will requires a lot more groundwork and administrative tasks (trust me on this one). This can be time constraining and will at least initially impact your hands on time on the project. Check back later on a post about how to start your own non-profit organization.
Here are a few resources to help you find non-profit organizations:
You can always join Heart to Soul in Action! We mainly operate in the areas of youth education and healthcare. http://www.hearttosoulinaction.org/
https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/search-for-charities- this is a comprehensive list of nonprofit organizations registered with the government. You can search organizations in your state and city.
https://www.guidestar.org/NonprofitDirectory.aspx - this is a website that highlights certain nonprofit organizations by the category they fall under.
M.S. Health Policy Candidate ‘17